"Law & Order: SVU" Star Mariska Hargitay Gives Scoop on Benson and Stabler
Mariska Hargitay opened up about her long-running character Olivia Benson and remembers her late co-star Richard Belzer.
For 23 years, Mariska Hargitay has captivated fans with her portrayal as Captain Olivia Benson on NBC's hit show Law & Order: SVU, which is the longest-running prime-time live-action character of all time in American TV history. The crime drama has stuck around longer than most and Hargitay said in an interview with TODAY on February 23, "I think it is a smart show." She added, "It is a respectful show. It deals with so many tender issues that so many people deal with. It deals with them respectful and honoring. Everyone wants to be seen and I think the culture is ready to look at something and deal with something they historically haven't been ready to deal with." Read on to see what she had to say about Benson and Stabler—and the late Richard Belzer.
For over two decades, the star has entertained audiences with her powerful storylines, heroic actions and of course her undeniable chemistry with her once partner Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), who are good friends in real life. While their character's obvious attraction hasn't been anything more than just that, fans are clamoring to see the pair become more than professional colleagues on the show. She told TODAY where she thinks the iconic characters stand. "All you need to know is Benson and Stabler love each other deeply," she explained. "It's so deep! You know, the show is probably only gonna go another 23 years, so I think we should just wait and see!"
While fans believe Benson and Stabler would make a dynamic onscreen couple, one thing is for sure–they're a great team and work brilliantly together taking down the bad guys and fighting for justice. Hargitay said, "I think the set up of the show with Olivia being the maternal figure and Elliot being the paternal figure I think was sort of the perfect archetype in that victims could come forward and feel safe and seen, and fought for."
In addition to playing the lead character, Hargitay also serves as an executive producer and directed this week's episode, which guest stars Bradley Whitford. "It's a bit of a departure from what we normally do," she said of the episode. "There are a whole lot of surprises," and added that she felt "so deeply honored that they trusted me with this material."She went on to say, " It is different and I have to say I was so excited. I hadn't directed in three years and it was so fun to see what I had learned just from being on set for that long." Hargitay raved about her co-stars and getting to work with the "one of the greatest actors," Whitford, as well as Nancy Travis. "It was one of the most joyous creative highlights of my time at SVU."
During her time at TODAY, Hargitay took a moment to pay tribute to Richard Belzer who died at the age of 78 on Sunday. "What a heart and soul," she said. "He was family and taught me so much about taking risks and creativity and trust, and he brought so much joy to the set." She added, "He was this acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant mind and yet he would melt in the sight of a child. He was just such a beautiful and complex [person] and it was such a privilege to know him." The actor's family is also paying tribute to the late star and shared a statement with PEOPLE. The family revealed that Belzer "passed away very peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning on February 19th at his home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, with his wife of 40 years and eldest daughter by his side," The statement also read, "His youngest daughter was unable to be there with us, but will be joining us soon. Due to the sudden nature of his passing, we apologize that we were unable to reach [out] until now, as we needed the time to process through this, gather ourselves and our thoughts." Belzer's family adds, "We so appreciate the outpouring of support from all of our family and friends. And thank you so much for those of you that have been so respectful of our need for privacy and solace during this difficult time."
Another thing Hargitay revealed in the TODAY interview is the nickname for her long-time co-star Ice-T., whom she calls "Icy." "I'm the only one allowed to call him Icy. He's actually the sweetest man alive, and the kindest and the most gentle." She added, "My relationship with him is so cozy!" she laughed." She initially shared her nickname for Ice-T during his recent Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony where she gave a thoughtful speech about her friend. "I want to tell you that it is so profoundly right that your name is now here forever commemorated in this place, because there is something else that I hold sacred, and that is friendship," she said. "Your achievements and your artistry and your whole verbal judo. Your whole story runs so deep. It runs deep particularly here in L.A., and it runs deep around the world. You're a rapper and an actor and an artist, and, at a time when people overuse words without thinking and wearing out the meanings, you are indeed the real O.G." She continued, "You tell the truth, you keep it real, you usually introduce it with, 'So, here's what's up!'" Hargitay said. "You laugh with me every day, we laugh so hard at things that we shouldn't laugh at. You grieve with me during times of sorrow, and you keep things, you keep everything, in perspective. You break it down, and you have been by my side working, learning, living, growing."
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursday nights at 9/8c on NBC and the next day on Peacock.